A rising tide converges in the Middle East to create an opportunity for U.S. coercive diplomacy: Diplomatic initiatives, based on credible force, are necessary to arrest the tide.
Consider protests in support of “Telegram,” a widely used app, which drew thousands of people to the streets of Moscow last month. Telegram is employed in countries across the former Soviet Union and Middle East. Its founder, Pavel Durov, is a pioneer of Russian social media; he said last month that Russians account for about 7 percent of its users.
Some Telegram users circumvent the block by using virtual private networks, which make it appear they were accessing the Internet from another country.
Iran last month also blocked Telegram in a bid to safeguard national security.
On March 13, 2018, The New York Times reported that then-Director of CIA, and now Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Advisor Bolton agreed with President Trump: The nuclear deal should be renegotiated or scrapped, before the May 12 deadline, which has now passed. Indeed, Trump has called for renegotiation and has withdrawn from the deal. Despite the diplomatic demarches from President Macron Chancellor Merkel, and Prime Minister Theresa May, President Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord with Iran.
In an article posted in Newsmax on Feb. 16, we asked, “Will Israel and Iran Go to War by 2019?”
Growing tensions between Israel and Iran show few signs of warmth and may heat up further. But will the countries go to war? Perhaps.
And what would this mean for regional peace and security?
Regarding 2018, direct conflict between Israel and Iran is not only on the horizon, it is happening now!
But by acknowledging the legitimacy of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), it should result in fewer actions by Tehran to crack down on protestors, using Telegram, e.g., by going to war with Israel to divert the Iranian population from domestic unrest.
The lead of the Jan. 16 article was CIA Director Mike Pompeo. He said, "It is my full expectation that you will see the Iranian people continue to revolt against this [crackdown by Tehran on protests.]"
Likewise, we lead this article with Pompeo. About Israel and Iran, and North Korea, he said, “Whether it’s Lebanese Hezbollah, the threat that it [Iran] presents to both Lebanon and to Israel; whether it's the Shia militias — you can see the impact that they're having today, even in northern Iraq; the threat that they pose to U.S. forces.”
And even more to the point of our post, Pompeo said, “There is a long history of proliferation ties, as between North Korea and Iran.” Proliferation partners share technology, making it easier for both to test and produce ballistic missiles and miniaturized warheads capable of being fitted on long-range missiles.
Yesterday, The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the governor of Iran’s central bank and another senior bank official, accusing them of funneling millions of dollars to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia designated as a terror group by Washington.
President Trump first placed Tehran on notice for engaging in regional destabilization, shortly after taking office in Feb. 2017 and then pursued comprehensive sanctions targeting Iranian ballistic missile programs in July.
On Oct. 13, Treasury designated the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization — effectively blacklisting it and more than forty related entities from the global economy — as necessary to contain Iran’s belligerence.
So too are Nov. 20 sanctions placed by Treasury on Iran, for involvement in terrorist activity and large-scale counterfeiting. But more must be done to accelerate growing unrest in the country and support the Iranian people by an Iran plunging toward war with Israel. Iran launched an attack drone into Israel, which Israelis tracked and shot down.
Israel sent jets into Syria to hit the Iranian command center that had sent the drone, at the Tiyas Airbase in Syria.
Forces backing Bashar al-Assad fired “dozens” of antiaircraft missiles, including into Israeli territory, which forced Israeli communities to go into lockdown and the pilots of one F-16 to abandon the aircraft.
Jerusalem sent eight jets into Syria to target a dozen Syrian and Iranian military facilities to target a dozen Syrian and Iranian military facilities.
Assad’s forces fired off another fifteen to twenty anti-aircraft missiles, again forcing Israeli communities to go into lockdown.
Finally, accepting an expansion of Tehran’s military presence in Syria will sooner or later bring about a much wider conflict among Israelis, Iranians, and the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Shia militias. It is an umbrella organization under which other militias fall.
Indeed, Amb (Ret.), Dennis Ross of The Washington Institute holds that “several of [their]…leaders have provocatively visited the Israeli border recently.”
The Way Forward
First, as Damascus and Tehran threaten Jerusalem, State implies to Jerusalem it stands alone. Washington should stand by Jerusalem, per our research for this article.
Second, the Pentagon: “did not participate in this military operation...Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people... We share the concerns of many throughout the region that Iran’s destabilizing activities that threaten international peace and security, and we seek greater international resolve in countering Iran’s malign activities.”
Not only is Israel at risk from Iran. Its ballistic missile programs give it the potential to hold targets at risk across the region, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Tehran’s desire to deter, compel, or attack the United States might drive it to deploy an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which like that of Pyongyang’s might target the U.S. homeland per the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, Feb. 13, 2018. Secretary Tillerson should have gone to to Jerusalem. Now that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on the Seventh Floor at State, he will be expected to travel to Jerusalem, once President Trump meets with Kim Jong-Un, probably in June, unless Kim backs out.
Prof. Raymond Tanter (@ProfRTanter) served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. Tanter is on the comprehensive list of conservative writers and columnists who appear in The Wall Street Journal, Townhall.com, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Human Events, The American Spectator, and now in Newsmax. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is director of the graduate programs in Global Affairs and Human Security and Negotiations and Conflict Management in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter @ProfSheehan.
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